Make your study plan
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What are your best ways to learn Spanish? Not sure, i bet! Your best learning style, favorite activities, and daily life all go into making your study plan. Bring Spanish into your everyday tasks and find out many ways to reach your skills goals and dreams.
When a goal is really hard, we tend to think it’s an impossiblity. Many people believe that learning a second language is next to impossible. Well, obviously there are many bilingual people out there, so impossibility can’t be true. If that’s the case, then how do they become fluent?
A life experience example might help see this differently. Many parents have a really hard time driving down the street with their kids screaming and being naughty in the car. They get overwhelmed, angry and give up. But then, there’s me with my kids crossing the continent up and down and back again. All five kids were well behaved in our minivan for three months.
The difference was this: my kids went on two hour drives all the time and were already in a regular habit of sitting still for long times. Learning languages are like that too. A good study plan will get you into a routine of good learning behaviors.
Let’s pin down exactly what needs to be a part of your study plan routine.
But wait, first you need to know what skills you have and want to have. To figure this out, go to the language skills ratings and set some goals. And get the Spanish Study Plan Guidebook to write down your plan and track your progress. There is a fillable sheet for each step. Once you’ve done that, continue to complete the last steps below.
How to Learn Spanish Effectively
First, any effective language learning plan has a measurable goal. In this study plan we are digging into the four language skills and setting a ratings goal for each skill. Your abilities are now on a scalable ratings system.
Secondly, your goals determine the kind of “studying” you need to focus on. Learning a language is less studying and more accurately is using. It’s the use of language that builds real skills. Many people focus on a textbook and rote memory. Although both of those have a purpose in learning, time is best spent in the actual listening, speaking, reading and writing of the language.
Finally, everyone has a unique learning style. Some students color code all their notes, but the next person can’t think straight unless everything is one color. It is important to know what your unique learning style is. The very methods you use to process and remember language will be influenced by your style.
I address all these factors that contribute to becoming a successful language learner below.
How to Speak Spanish Fluently
To begin with, fluency depends on your objective. Everybody’s purpose for learning a language is different. So, all reasons considered, to become fluent it takes character, time and real life use of the language on a regular basis. In other words, your study plan will include listening, speaking, reading and writing.
- Read aloud from a regular book (not a textbook)
- Explore words with reference books and say them
- Talk to yourself and others
- Your favorite activities are times of Spanish speaking practice
- Use a variety of learning resources to practice your skills
- Do copy work
- Write about a topic
Language fluency is to become proficient in listening, speaking, reading and or writing. A whole range of skills and experience levels are part of the learning process. The point is to close the gap between todays abilities and the future skills you want to have.
You don’t need a native speaker in your life, to take a class, study a textbook, or to be in a Spanish speaking country. All you need is motivation to learn and the right learning tools and methods unique to you.
Self Study Spanish
Everyone’s got an opinion on this topic. The reason why is because everyone learns differently (and businesses want to sell their products). On sites like Quora, people share what worked for them. But will it work for you too? Will you stick with their prescribed method?
Progress happens with action. Creating a plan and taking action will close that gap between your current language experience and what you aspire to do in the future. This step will turn your dreams into reality with effective learning methods and a consistent study habit.
- Make a Spanish study plan
- Use the language regularly
- Track your progress
- Refine your goals
- Stick to it through the long haul
It’s really simple. Make an action plan and ditch whatever isn’t pushing your progress to the next level. Be sure to include a variety of language sources, including audio, visual and print. Consistently add new words to your personalized vocabulary list. And yes, include some rote memorization of grammar facts.
Once you determine what you will study and the resources you need, then adding in details like the amount of time, frequency and duration ensure maximum growth. No matter what life throws your way, a growth mindset will keep you on track until you reach your goal.
How to Practice Spanish on Your Own
Further, on your own, you can pull together a variety of audio, visual and print resources. From these materials you can pull new vocabulary and examples of useage. Reading aloud is a favorite method of mine, because you can practice speaking and listening all by yourself (or with others). Another favorite is art study. From a purely visual source, you can discover new vocabulary and an image at the same time. Finally, copy work is a really good way to practice writing without having to compose your own thoughts.
Best Ways to Learn Spanish By Yourself
Instead, do some activities in Spanish. Using your body and mind creates new language pathways. The senses of sight, touch, hearing, taste, smell and movement engage the brain. New Spanish words learned this way are processed and stored into memory.
How Activities Create New Language Pathways
Thinking and memory is essential to learn a language. Activities engage the mind and body. Asking questions and searching for meaning is the number one task.
- decision making
- problem solving
- forming ideas
- being creative
All of these tasks develop new language pathways in all languages. So while you’re doing an activity in Spanish, you mind is creating a new set of language pathways. This is how we build vocabulary and connect words together.
From the sensory activity, the mind creates memories. Words and complex language structures are recorded for future predictions. Our emotions impact learning memory. During an activity, we respond with various emotional states. The stronger the emotions involved in learning; a deeper memory is made. Not only that, but our emotions drive our attention and motivate our progress.
Best Ways to Teach Your Kids Spanish
Again, each child will have their unique learning style strengths. Many activities can be mixed with different learning styles and tools. Every school day, we had an afternoon quiet read aloud time spread across the living room. Everyone listened quietly. My little girls drew pictures. They all wrote at least one word from the reading. My oldest loved to talk, so we listened.
As you choose an activity, record specific learning tools for each child. Their age determines the length of study time.
- Preschool and younger – as long as they are attentive
- Elementary – 15 minutes
- Middle school – 30 minutes
- High school – 45 minutes
These are basic guidelines for the amount of time to spend on an activity. Breaking the time up may also make learning more productive. Longer times actually decreases learning effectiveness.
Homeschool Spanish Study Plan
Your family or school group may choose to include a foreign language in the school year plan. Perhaps a textbook is the core resource for the course. Still, the study plan guidebook will help you pull together a comprehensive plan to beef up the curriculum. The learning styles give ideas for ways to study.
Overall, many activities can be done together as a family. While each person has their own study plan specific to their needs and best learning style. A planning sheet can be used for the group and another for each member of the family involved.
Basic Spanish Study Guide
The following study plan is your basic guide to learn Spanish in your daily life. You need actionable tasks to complete on a regular basis. They will build skills and help you reach your goals. The overarching plan you’re making is your study guide.
Your study guide consists of resources, learning tools, specific activities and a schedule. With all these, you’ll develop a solid study habit with the right mindset, achievable goals and even a backup plan.
Ready? Let’s get your Spanish study plan made.
Step 4 – Make Your Spanish Study Plan
From last time, your skills goals will determine the type of resources, activities, learning tools, and schedule. Today though, first you’ll discover your best learning style. The two together will guide your choices for your Spanish study plan.
Different Learning Styles
Everybody is different. That shows in learning too. One way of learning is fast for one and pointless for the another learner. It’s important to discover how you learn best. This will change the resources, activities and learning tools you use to practice. Chances are you naturally gravitate to one of these styles on your own.
The use of sight and spatial senses with visual representations. A visual learner works well with written instructions and illustrations. They organize ideas with notes, lists, drawings, and color-coding. Good visual sources are graphs, pictures, videos, and maps. Creating a mental picture of a concept is helpful.
The use of the sense of hearing with sound and music. An auditory learner works well with verbal instructions. Asking questions and having discussions are important in the learning process. Some effective auditory activities are dramatic read aloud, listen and repeat, chanting, music, audio recording.
The use of body movement through physical activities. A kinesthetic learner prefers learning by doing. Written and verbal instructions are not necessary since they prefer to learn by observation and experimentation. The best activities are games, role-playing, hand gestures, and exercises. They can connect physical sensations and movement to visual and auditory inputs.
The use of reading and writing to learn. A linguistic learner engages in an academic type of work. They can translate visual and auditory tools into writing. The best learning activities are taking detailed notes, rewriting notes, reading independently, writing definitions, outlines, summaries and stories, research, and reports.
Learning Style Quiz
Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what works best for you. You may have more than one best learning style. Now is a good time to discover more learning options. This quiz can help you figure out what your strengths are for learning. After you take the quiz, return here to continue making your study plan.
Your results will help you choose your resources, activities and learning tools. Some styles work better with certain language skills. For example, auditory styles naturally mesh with the oral skills. Linguistic style flows with the written skills of reading and writing. Further, a kinesthetic learner moves with all the skills.
No matter what, even if you are a strong visual learner, the oral skills still coincide. For example, talking about art combines a visual source with listening and speaking skills. There are many approaches to the learning styles and skills.
A Complete Spanish Study Program for Free
DIY your Spanish learning program with quality content:
Simple Step-by-Step Instructions
Follow these step by step instructions. For more details on each step go through each of the sections below.
- Discover your best learning styles (above)
- Pick your favorite activities
- Choose your language resources
- Gather reference materials
- Include learning tools with the activity
- Schedule and review your plan
Keep it simple, practical, easy, and fun. Start with one simple activity. Then, add another activity when it becomes easy. Continue adding, but be careful to not overload yourself with too much.
How can I make learning Spanish fun?
Do the things you love to do
Learning Spanish can be a fun-filled adventure. It doesn’t have to be tedious or boring, based on a textbook and homework. Use your favorite type of resources, the topics that interest you and the activities you enjoy. For kids, games, songs, competitions, playing, being active are great options. Chances are you’re already reading, listening to podcasts or music, and watching movies.
You’ll actually be motivated to use Spanish in your life.
Have a curious mind
As a result of being interested, your mind will be ready to ask questions and search for answers. You’ll want to know what objects and ideas are called and how to say things in Spanish. The learning process is filled with the search for meaning. An actively engaged mind is crucial for lasting memory.
Use your senses
The five senses – sight, taste, touch, sound, and hearing – are all ways to receive language. Sensory stimulus creates new language pathways in the brain. Movement of the body is also stimulates the nervous system thinking and memory. The more active and engaged the senses during learning, the more effective it is. After many repetitions facts, vocabulary and word connections sink into memory. These tidbits can be retrieved for use later.
The best part is these factors will keep you motivated to work hard toward your goals.
Spanish Activities List
Are any of these activities already a part of your daily routine?
If so, then simply begin to do them in Spanish instead. This means you’ll need to find a Spanish resource. There are plenty of books, audios, topical vocabulary lists, dictionaries, online translators, videos and songs. More about resources below.
If not, choose your favorite kind of activity to add to your day. You can add any of your interests to this list.
Spanish Immersion at Home
It is possible to create a language-rich environment combining an activity with a Spanish resource. Every kind of resource provides the words and examples of their use. They are your model for complex grammar without having to learn complex concepts. Real examples you can use in your real life.
Keep these language immersion tips in mind:
- One learner can practice listening and speaking skills alone
- A group of learners (homeschool, book club, study group…) can use the same resource
- Each learner has a unique study plan with activities, resources and tools
- All language skills can be practiced from any type of resource
Spanish How to…
How to Read books to Learn Spanish
You can practice every language skill by reading a book out loud in Spanish. An ordinary book gives tons of vocabulary and examples of real language use. A read aloud time is good to build all language skills. I share detailed instructions how to structure a read aloud time and beginning book lists too.
How to Listen to Audios to Learn Spanish
You can practice every language skill by listening to a variety of audio resources in Spanish. Audiobooks, music and movies have loads of vocabulary and examples of real language use. A listening time is ideal for growing the oral skills, especially for auditory learners.
Also, adding in a book, subtitles and lyrics combines the written and oral skills. Plus, audios are useful as a backup plan.
Be careful not to get overwhelmed by the fast pace of speech. Most audio and video players have settings to adjust speed. Slow the speed down. Use the pause button to repeat the words. As your listening skills improve increase the speed.
How to look at art to Learn Spanish
Artwork is a visual source for new words. The artwork has a lot of details and action to describe and discuss. The details provide a picture definition of a word. Talking about art is a way to practice describing a scene, stating facts, and sharing opinions. Each language skill can be used.
For more about talking about art
how to increase Your Vocabulary
A language is words. Words are vocabulary. Grammar is the connection between words. The bigger your vocabulary is, the more options you have to express yourself and understand others. It’s best to create your own personalized vocabulary list. Sometimes you may need to use a reference source for topical vocabulary lists.
For more about the vocabulary challenge
Self taught language learners need two types of learning materials: a language resource and reference tools. The first provides new words and models their proper use. The second are essential to understand meanings, translate between native and second language, and explain key grammar concepts.
- Print, visual or audio language resources
- Spanish reference books
Best Way to Learn Spanish on Your Own
Let’s face it, one of the biggest obstacles to learning Spanish is having opportunities to use the language. A complete language learning program includes resources that model the language.
Once you’ve found the right resources, adding them to your day is simple. You’ve got options. For one, you can do your ordinary activities in Spanish. Or, your new Spanish resource can be the launching point for a new activity to add to your routine. For both, your best learning tools will maximize your opportunities to become bilingual.
Spanish Resources for Students
Here are three kinds of Spanish resources student’s need:
- Spanish read aloud book
- Spanish audio
- Visual resources
- Spanish reference materials
- Spanish learning tools (ex: verb conjugation practice sheets)
The starting point for all language learners is exposure to the language itself. New sounds, words and ways of connecting meanings are very challenging. Gaining experience hearing, saying, reading and writing is crucial from the beginning.
These sources show you first hand how to say anything in Spanish.
The Best Spanish Books for Beginners
At the beginning, you want to start with an easy book. Children’s books are perfect for basic vocabulary and simple sentence structures. More on beginning books
In schools, children learn to read from silbarios. Literally, they are syllable books. First the vowel sounds are given, then combined with consonants. Plenty of basic vocabulary words are on each page. By the end basic full sentences are given. Each Latin American country has their own version of a beginning Spanish reader.
The simplest source for basic words are board books. They also have a lot of pictures for word meanings. Each book has just a few words about a specific topic. This is ideal for creating new language pathways in the brain without any language translation.
Remember the turtle and the hair from Aesop’s fables? That’s just one example of a story from a book of fables. These short and sweet stories are usually one paragraph long. They end with a one sentence moral of the story. The length is perfect for a beginning Spanish learner.
Spanish Children’s Series Books
After some experience, children’s series books are simple enough to understand. They are full of a lot of action, descrition and even dialogue. Because they are written for children the language is straight foward. The key is to find an easy going pace to avoid overwhelm.
The unfamiliarity of a new language can be intimidating and discouraging. But that’s all part of the learning process. Starting small with regular doses of engaging activities is the best way to build experience and new language skills. Adding any of these books to your daily routine will give you the immersion on your own.
The oral skills are the foundation for all skills. Listening is the number one language skill to focus on from the start. And second to that is pronunciation, if you plan on having a smooth conversation.
- Movies and Episodes
- News reports
Each of these sources give you the opportunity to hear how Spanish sounds. The best part is that all of them can be paused and replayed. Even better yet, some have the audio in print. You can read the book along with the audiobook, read the subtitles in movies and get music lyrics. This is a powerful combination of reading and hearing.
The advantage to audio sources is the focus on the sound of the language. Having a smooth conversation is hard in the beginning. So, using audio sources is a way of training your ear for a new phonics code. At the same time, you need to train your tongue for new sounds and letter combinations.
How do I say this in Spanish? That’s the main question when using a purely visual source. The object is your insipiration for telling a story, describing something or talking about a concept. With visual sources, you are responsible for telling about the observable details.
- Nature Study
- Chores and Tasks
Naturally, the elements and design of artwork have a lot of detail to talk about. There are objects, colors, spacing, patterns to describe. The art holds a visual story to put into words. The artist carefully places every part to send a message. From all of this, you’ll have the opporunity to work on your expression skills through speaking and writing.
Ultimately, your daily life is full of visual sources. Everything around you has a Spanish word connected to it. Use your ordinary activites, the events of the day, the things in the environment as inspiration for your new Spanish vocabulary. You have a story to tell or write in Spanish.
The best way to learn a language is by using the language. Whatever tasks or purposeful language learning activities you do be sure to use Spanish. Sometimes the simple is the best way. You don’t necessarily need a textbook or a teacher. Here are some really effective ways to get some practical Spanish skills on your own.
Spanish Learning Tools
Above, we determined your best learning styles. For each style, here we list several learning tools. These simple tools complement the different activities and resources.
- Notes on whiteboard
- Lists to organize thoughts
- Draw pictures of concepts
- Slips of paper to organize
- Use of highlighting and color-coding
- Graphic representations – graphs, charts and diagrams, brainstorm bubble, brain maps
- Pictures, images, videos, and maps
- Using puppets
- Listen and repeat
- Chant to rhythm
- Make speeches or presentations
- Guest speakers
- Discussions, conversations, and chats
- Dramatic read aloud
- An audio recording of notes
- Play games
- Hands-on activities
- Observation and experimentation
- Trial and error
- Real-world examples
- Practical exercises
- Group work
- Hand gestures
- Physical movement – snap, clap, sing, jump, run, march, tag, exercises, stretches…
- Building concepts with legos, dough, blocks
- Read books aloud and independently
- Listen to stories
- Take detailed notes
- Write a summaries, stories, definitions
- Play word games
- Telling and listening to stories
- Having a debate
This list is just the beginning of a much longer one full of your ideas. Your best learning style tells you what tools to use before, during or after your core activity time. For example, a visual learner could draw pictures during read-aloud time. Or an auditory learner could sing with the music during listening time.
The variations of combining the core language source activity with learning tools are limitless.
Language Learning Schedule
Quickly, I’ll summarize what you need to make your study plan specific. This will keep you moving forward on each of your language skill goals. And give you a way to track your progress.
How much time should I spend learning Spanish?
A number of factors go into that decision. Research say it takes 480 hours of learning time to reach basic level Spanish. This means one hour a day would take over a year to learn the basics. Your specific goals determine how much time. Language learning becomes a lifestyle.
- What level are you working towards?
- What is your finish date?
A rough estimate is one level takes two years of study 1 hour per day on weekdays. You can do more or less, depending on your priorities, amount of time available and your consistency. Remember, your study plan is interest-based learning, so you may enjoy more time.
Length of activity time
The learner’s developmental stage sets the time limit based on age group. The attention span lasts a short time and increases with age. Your study time can be separated into shorter segments spread throughout the day.
Preschool – at will, prone to wander
Elementary age – 15 minutes
Middle School – 30 minutes
High School – 45 minutes
Adult – 45 minutes +
Tips for Successful Learning
A mindset for growth will get you bigger results and faster. Keep these tips fresh in your mind. They will help you keep your focus on your learning path.
Finally, you know what you’re going to do, now you need the action steps. Smaller bite size pieces make it easier to accomplish. If you’ve got a planner, add it into a time slot for the next six weeks. If you operate off of a routine, figure out where it fits in your time. First thing, gather the materials and get started as soon as possible.
Expect to Struggle
Mountain climbing. Learning a language is like climbing a big mountain. Over time the uphill slope becomes steeper and harder. Fatigue sets in as the peak seems out of reach. Many learners give up too soon. The struggle is real. The transition from beginning to intermediate level is rough. So expect some discomfort; embrace the challenge.
Make a Backup Study Plan
Life always has a way of getting in the way of your plans. Even your own overwhelm, perfectionism, procrastination, illness, schedule change, resposibilities or irresponsibility may be your biggest obstacle. A good backup plan, will give you a simple alternative source and activity, as follows:
- For read-aloud time, instead of the print book, switch to an audiobook to listen to while you are driving in the car.
- If a morning read-aloud time is not going well, change reading time to after lunch.
- It’s the holiday season and you have less free time, reduce the amount of time or number of times per week, so you will still have a good study habit.
- Sickness has taken over, so watch some movies with subtitles in Spanish.
- Often, future circumstances are not predictable, yet having some sort of alternative will help you continue to make progress towards your ultimate objective.
Reward Your Wins
Always celebrate small progress and big milestones, often. Reward yourself regularly for your accomplishments. Add that to your plan too.
Review and Refocus Your Efforts
Be honest with yourself about what’s working and what’s a complete failure. If you’re not making progress, try something different. Adjust the activity, time, tools where needed. Eliminate anything that is stealing your activity time. Make your Spanish study time a priority.
Need I say more? Learning a language is hard work, so just do it. The benefits are large. Remember your reasons why you decided to make this study plan. Keep going strong.